BookNerd Adventure: Bookman’s Alley (Evanston, IL)
Hidden away on Sherman Avenue in Evanston, Illinois (not far from the towering cornerstone Barnes & Noble) is a treasure chest of old books known as “Bookman’s Alley.” Recently, my husband and I took a jaunt up to the lovely city of Evanston to visit this marvelous store (in addition to seeing “True Grit” and stopping for some wonderful Italian food at Dave’s Italian Kitchen. Seriously, go there and have the homemade Ziti. It’ll knock your face off.)
There’s no website for “Bookman’s Alley” or anything. It’s a word of mouth kind of place. (Though there’s a facebook page for fans of the store, which is brimming with comments that read like love notes.)
Bookman’s Alley is owned and run by Roger Carlson, who’s put a lot of work into seeking out the books that line the walls, in addition to the clever layout. For serious readers, it feels like Narnia as you make your way through the maze of rooms to discover new (and hidden away) sections of books. The place smells like an attic, the ceilings are low, and not everything is clearly marked. I’ve stopped in the store a few times now, and the grand total of staff members I’ve encountered is probably only one or two.
Of course, I love it. A lot.
On our last visit, one of the most impressive books featured was an 1892 first edition “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.” Bookman’s Alley takes no chances – the book was under glass for protection.
Also displayed was a first edition of “Le Morte D’Arthur” by Sir Thomas Mallory from 1893/1894, which is a limited edition. (1 of 300!) Both books – along with many other precious editions – are things collectors search the world for.
If you’re looking for something specific, give Roger a call. If you’re just in love with books like me, it’s like visiting a really fantastic museum. Bring a coffee and take your time perusing the shelves. (Also, see if you can find the section of bargain books that always makes me laugh – labeled “cheap,” “cheaper,” and “cheapest.”)